Five Rückert Songs

Composer: Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)
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Composer: Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)

Performance date: 02/07/2013

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: c.1901-1905

Duration: 00:18:46

Recording Engineer: Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: S-solo, pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Ruby Hughes - [mezzo-soprano]
Julius Drake - [piano]

Friedrich Rückert [1788-1866] was born near Coburg, Germany,
and became a distinguished linguist and poet. He was Professor of Oriental
Languages at
Erlangen and then in Berlin, retiring in
1848. He wrote a Persian grammar and provided many translations
from Eastern literature which became standard German texts. However,
it was the book of his own love lyrics
, Liebesfrühling [1823], which provided him with a far
wider audience and a lasting reputation; among other composers Schubert set
four of these poems, Schumann twenty-one and Richard Strauss six. In the summer
of 1901, by which time he had finished his Fourth Symphony, Mahler decided
to set some of Rückert’s poems. Like Berlioz
Nuits d’été they were originally
composed with piano accompaniment, he orchestrated five of them and they were
first performed as a group in
in 1905. 

The first song Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder! seems
to look forward to the great symphonic poem Das Lied von der Erde with its restless, surging energy as the
poet asks that his beloved should not look at his work in progress, like the
bees one should wait for the completed honeycomb.  This is followed by the serene
Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft as the poet
rhapsodises on the perfume from a branch of a lime tree placed in his room. In
the third song,
bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
 the poet tells how he has abandoned the world in order
to find solace in solitude and song; Mahler creates a magical rhapsody akin to
his symphonies. The pensive mood remains for Um Mitternacht as Rückert
tussles with dark nocturnal thoughts: Oh
Lord, you keep watch over life and death at midnight.
Mahler dedicated the
last song,
du um Schönheit
, to his
wife, Alma.  She later recounted that she
had been playing a lot of Wagner during her first pregnancy in 1903 and that he
wrote this charming little love song and slipped the manuscript into her score
of Die Walküre  but she did not
open it for days so he had to reveal it to her; she was overwhelmed with joy and (they) played it over twenty times that